Jason Richwine recently published a short criticism of a new brief that Robert Orr and I wrote about immigrant and native benefit levels and use rates for means-tested welfare and entitlement programs. This is another in a long series of blog post responses between those who support different methods for measuring native and immigrant welfare consumption so the response is wonky and does not revolve around a central question. The title of Richwine’s criticism is “Obfuscating the Immigrant-Welfare Debate.” Below, Richwine’s comments will be in quotes and my responses will follow.
“A few years ago I noted that ‘the amnesty movement has turned the political numbers game into an art form, systematically obscuring the trade-offs inherent in immigration policy.’ The movement has reached new heights of obfuscation with Alex Nowrasteh and Robert Orr’s Cato Institute study, ‘Immigration and the Welfare State.’”
Richwine hid half of our title: “Immigration and the Welfare State: Immigrant and Native Use Rates and Benefit Levels for Means-Tested Welfare and Entitlement Programs.” Our entire title is important to defusing many of Richwine’s other complaints later in his piece. The charge of obfuscation is serious but cutting off three-quarters of the words in our title does not enhance clarity.
“The Nowrasteh-Orr study says that’s all wrong. In fact, immigrants receive 39 percent less in welfare benefits than natives on a per capita basis. How is this possible? By including Social Security and Medicare as ‘welfare,’ for starters.”
As the title of our brief states, we included entitlement programs as part of the welfare state. As we further explained in the first two sentences in our brief, we included them because they accounted for about 65 percent of all federal benefits outlays in 2016. It is impossible to discuss the welfare state or the impact that immigrants have on it without including entitlement programs because they comprise its largest share.